Methods: Participants included a random sample of 561 first and second-year college students (Mage = 19.02) from a large public university in the Midwestern United States. Students self-reported their gender (59% cisgender female, 36% cisgender male, and 5% transgender or non-binary), sexual orientation (75% heterosexual), race (51% White, 30% Asian or Asian American,13% Black or African American) and ethnicity (15% Hispanic or Latinx). Students completed self-report surveys via a secure, online platform during the spring of 2021. We examined prevalence rates for each form of SCS and examined these experiences in relation to mental health symptoms and academic adjustment through path modeling in Mplus.
Results: Among this sample of college students, approximately 55% had experienced at least one act of stalking, and 49% had experienced at least one act of cyberstalking in their lifetime. In addition, 22% endorsed perpetrating one act of stalking, and 45% endorsed perpetrating at least one act of cyberstalking. Experiencing higher levels of stalking victimization was significantly associated with anxiety (B = 0.12) and depressive symptoms (B = 0.07). Stalking perpetration was also associated with anxiety (B = 0.08) and depressive symptoms (B = 0.10). Cyberstalking victimization and perpetration were not associated with these mental health outcomes. Experiencing stalking victimization (B = .07) and the perpetration of cyberstalking (B = .10) were both associated with negative academic adjustment. Differences in rates of SCS were seen across the different socio-demographic categories of students.
Conclusions and Implications: The prevalence of SCS victimization and perpetration was high among this sample of first- and second-year college students: about 1 in 2 students had experienced and/or perpetrated a form of SCS. Experiencing and perpetrating stalking were associated with higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Although cyberstalking victimization was not associated with negative outcomes, perpetrating cyberstalking was associated with more negative academic adjustment. Given the high prevalence of cyberstalking and perpetration, more research is needed to better understand these online contexts of risk. For example, better understanding how individuals can use technology to perpetrate violence, and how cyber spaces can be a place for individuals to feel unsafe is critically important. Prevention programs, interventions, and campus responses need to include SCS behaviors and experiences.